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The Budget

So now what? The draft is done, but there are holes to be filled. I figure I'll split up free agency into a couple of posts- The Budget, and the Shopping List.

So what have we got left to spend?

Not a whole lot. Before starting, I need to mention that these analyses would not have been possible without the salary information of wyn at Canis Hoopus.  Extraordinarily useful stuff. (And by the way, non-Hornets related, but this is an amazing read on the Ricky Rubio situation).

Here's how our current salary situation shakes out:

Player Dollars (in millions)
Chris Paul 13.8
Peja Stojakovic 13.4
Tyson Chandler 12.3
David West 9.1
Antonio Daniels 6.6
James Posey 6.0
Morris Peterson 6.0
Rasual Butler 3.9
Hilton Armstrong 2.8
Julian Wright 2.0
Devin Brown 1.1
Darren Collison 1.1
Marcus Thornton 0.4
Free Agent #1 ---
Free Agent #2 ---
Hornets Total
78, 449, 353
Projected Salary Cap
57, 300, 000
Projected Luxury Tax
70, 000, 000


At first glance, this doesn't look great.* We're about 21 million over the projected cap and about 8 million over the projected luxury. While the cap figure has no relevance (we already knew we would be way over the cap no matter what), most project a 1 to 2 million dollar decrease from last year's 58.68 mil (wyn's projection has it at 57.3 as noted above).

*Two things to note: Collison's salary is derived from the 09-10 rookie salary scale, and I'm operating under the assumption that Thornton will be signed.

The luxury tax level is of absolute importance. The tax will be the most important determining factor behind who we obtain this summer. Last year, the tax was announced Wednesday, July 9th, or one week after free agency started. Expect a similar release date this year. I highly, highly, highly doubt George Shinn will allow a move to be made until the number is released. So while free agency begins on the first of July, don't be startled if the Hornets aren't linked with a single free agent for the first week.

But while Shinn and the Hornets will be waiting for the exact figure, expect it to be close to the projection (I'll post updates as wyn's projection changes).

So we're projected to be somewhere in the vicinity of 8.5 million dollars over the luxury. What does this mean? I'll try keep this as un-convoluted as possible.

Let's start with the facts:

  1. George Shinn does not want to pay the luxury tax.
  2. The luxury tax is calculated at the end of the 2009-2010 season. We have now till the trade deadline (Feb) to shed salary.
  3. We have 2 valuable expiring contracts: Antonio Daniels (6.6 million) and Rasual Butler (3.945 million)
  4. Thus, we can probably move ~10.6 million dollars, with ease, if we really, really needed to.
  5. If we spend more money this summer, anticipating that we will move Butler, then we need to know that Marcus Thornton can be an adequate backup to MoPete at the 2.
  6. We won't see Thornton play an NBA minute until November.

Starting to see the problem here? If we overspend this summer and Thornton ends up worse than we expected, we wouldn't be able to move Butler, and George Shinn's finances could take a hit. Thus, we technically do have a small budget to work with, but there is a good deal of risk associated.

As for the exact number: take the luxury tax- 70 mil, add the Butler and Daniel contracts- 10.6 mil, and you come up with 80.6 million. This is unequivocally the highest the Hornets want to be at. So subtract the current value- 78.5 million, and you come up with ~2 million dollars to spend this summer. This is, decidedly, not a whole lot of money.

But wait! If you look back at the roster above, you'll see we have 13 players, with just 2 spots left, cleverly named Free Agent #1 and Free Agent #2. The Hornets haven't entered a season carrying 15 players in the Byron Scott era. They're not going to start now. Basically, the roster says the same thing the finances do- the Hornets are only going to pick up one more player this summer.

Quickly, the depth chart:


So there you have it. 2 million dollars. That's the budget, and that's the highest possible maximum. That would be the equivalent of putting me and and unlimited credit card in a Foot Locker. In reality, the Hornets will end up spending less than that.

One player, for less than 2 large.

I'll tell you one thing- it ain't gonna be Pargo.

Update: Good question from ticktock6 (in the comments) reminds me of a point I didn't address. Basically, it wouldn't make much sense for the Hornets to trade Butler/Daniels for other players of equal value. CBA rules dictate that if a team is over the cap, they can only make trades of up to 125%. Therefore, the Hornets can only look to trade Butler/Daniels to teams that are already below the cap (getting minimum deals in return) or to teams that have big trade exceptions. Trade exceptions essentially function as salaries. For example, Antonio Daniels (6.6 mil) for a 6 million dollar trade exception and a million dollar contract, etc. I'll try and publish a full list of trade exceptions for this season, but off the top of my head, Denver has a 9 million exception that expires some time in July and Miami has a 4 million exception that expires in 2010. Trading Butler/Daniels isn't as easy as I made it sound, but definitely still doable though.

Update 2: Also forgot to include that the Hornets would be getting back around 1 to 1.5 mil in contracts back for Butler/Daniels. I'm starting to think the luxury tax may very well be unavoidable for Shinn this year, even if minimizing it is quite possible. But if Shinn really wants those revenues, New Orleans only has one more trade chip on its roster.... uh oh.